If you are considering embarking on a voluntary aid program, it is important to give thorough attention to any health concerns or issues that may affect you while you are working out of the UK.

Many voluntary aid roles are based in exotic climates where the country’s infrastructure is under-developed, health care is rudimentary and facilities are poor.

To ensure that you are fully protected for the full tenure of your voluntary role, it is important to educate yourself as much as possible in advance of your departure as to what to expect while you are out there. For example, what facilities will be available to you, and what the inherent health risks may be.

Mitigating Risks

Risks may range from health concerns, such as exposure to tropical diseases, such as malaria, to safety concerns, such as positions volunteering in conflict zones with refugee camps. Mitigating any risk you are exposed to is often about preparation, education as what to expect and how best to cope with whatever situation you might encounter. It is strongly advisable to read all literature you are given in advance of your placement, and to speak to other volunteers that have worked in the region you are visiting.   

Learning the local language or dialect may also prove beneficial in helping you to communicate with the people you will be living amongst.     

Travel Insurance

Before departing, make sure to arrange comprehensive travel insurance for the full range of activities you expect to participate in. Travel insurance will protect you and could save you a lot of money if things go wrong. 

Health Advice and Precautions

Before leaving for your trip, seek medical advice specific to your destination. Consult your local GP and read any Foreign Office advice available about requirements for visiting your destination. Read as much as possible about the health risks involved in travelling to your location and adhere to all medical advice.

Arrange all necessary and recommended vaccinations well in advance of your trip and take a comprehensive first aid kit with you. When you arrive at your destination, be sure to identify the location of the nearest medical professional so you know where to seek advice, guidance or support should you need it.

Monitor Your Health Closely

When travelling to exotic locations or working in deprived environments, it is likely you will be exposed to bacteria your body has not encountered before. This may result in travel sickness, in the form of diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting or fever. This is very common and can be best avoided with frequent hand washing, only eating food cooked at a high temperature or fruit that you have washed.

If you should become sick it is important that you drink plenty of water, rest and communicate your illness to co-workers or friends who can monitor your recovery and seek help if your condition worsens.

Your volunteer program should have a comprehensive support system with managers, trainers and plenty of colleagues who can support you during your stay.

Before accepting any role, perform thorough research into facilities and location and the attendant risks before accepting.